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Free Living Flatworm Regeneration and the Practical Applications of Studying Their Regenerative Capabilities

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  • April 26, 2009
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The ability to replace an injured portion of an organism's body is known as regeneration. Regeneration of free living flatworms is most common pronounce among "more basal taxa (Aceola, Catenulida, and Macrostomorpha) as well as in more derived taxa (Tricladida and Neodermata)" (Egger et al., 2007). The major free living flatworm taxa, with the exception of Nermodermatida, show some capacity to self regeneration damaged or missing tissues. The term planarian is used to designate a specific group of free living flatworms know as triclads. The triclads have been the focus of the majority of regenerative studies conducted on free living flatworms. The planarians are an ideal organism to study regarding regeneration because "they are one of the simplest bilaterians known to display robust regenerative capacities" (Alvarado, 2006). The planarians are mainly recognized "for their capacity to regenerate complete individuals from miniscule body parts" (Alvarado, 2006). Scientists have been particularly interested in flatworm regeneration recently because of its close relation to stem cells and embryogenesis. The mitotically active neoblast cells of the free living flatworms are currently being investigated in order to better understand the regeneration process. Somatic cells called neoblasts are found in the regeneration blastema of the flatworms. Neoblasts function by replaceing cells lost due to normal physiological turnover as well as replacing lost tissues due to amputation. The capability to regenerate is a trait that is expressed in very few of the animals in higher taxa than the free living flatworms. With such useful applications, researchers are looking into the reasons why this trait was not passed on to the higher animals. One of the main reasons proposed by researchers is that "other than as a side effect of asexual reproduction, the ability to regenerate is seemingly not useful enough to outweigh the inherent dangers" (Egger et al., 2007). A better...